[Diggers350] ‘A Populist Obsession With Carbon’: Red Meat-Free School Menus Fail Our Children & The Environment

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Feb 10 22:27:10 GMT 2022

'A Populist Obsession With Carbon': Red Meat-Free School Menus Fail 
Our Children And The Environment

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Why red meat-free school menus fail children and environment

<https://www.fwi.co.uk/author/debbie-james>Debbie James 03 February 2022

Local authorities stand accused of using climate change debate as an 
excuse to reduce or remove the red meat offering on school menus.

As a livestock farmer and food business director, Mike Gooding 
understands more than most about the nutritional and sustainability 
credentials of food.

The youngest of Mr Goodings four children is at primary school and he 
reckons councils are letting down pupils like her, and the wider society.

He believes they are failing to address the sustainability challenges 
with menus that contain precious little dairy and even less meat, are 
nutritionally poor and not sustainable.


Livestock farmer and food business director, Mike Gooding

Public sector catering and procurement more generally was thrown into 
sharp focus recently when Oxfordshire County Council set out plans to 
ban meat and dairy products from being served at its official events.

A motion put forward by a Green Party councillor stated that global 
meat and dairy production was a significant contributor to greenhouse 
gas emissions and deforestation.

The motion is due to be voted on in March.

Mr Gooding is concerned that what he describes as a 'popularist 
obsession with carbon' is now seeping into school meal menus.

Nobody is arguing about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 
but the carbon argument is used as a convenience for moving away from 
the primary objective of providing good, nutritious and sustainable 
food, he says.

If people want to eat particular diets that is their choice, but 
public sector catering, when good wholesome food is a requirement, is 
not the place to assert that opinion.


Sustainability is not simply about carbon, it must be a balance 
between economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and 
ethical sustainability, Mr Gooding argues.

All three elements must be positive to be truly sustainable.

Yet some schools have removed meat from the lunch menu entirely.

At Dale Community Primary School in Derby, a school that is 
responsible for its own catering procedures and meal provision, the 
school governors have specified no-meat meals will be served in 
school and have made meat substitutes available as well.

Quorn hotdogs and burgers sit alongside pizza, pasties and vegan sausage rolls.

Extensively-reared, grass-fed beef and lamb offers much better 
nutrition and sustainability than many other foods, Mr Gooding insists.

These include the unsustainable and more expensive plant-based 
options, of which there are many, and where sustainability claims 
over water and land use do not stack up.

High amounts of processing are involved, often with artificial 
ingredients added to provide some nutritional value.

The ethics of choice, good public sector catering and nutrition 
cannot be ignored in pandering to a popularist obsession with carbon, 
particularly when the science is clear but, at best, the rhetoric 
ill-informed, says Mr Gooding.

Cost cutting

Mr Gooding says underlying the choices is lack of investment. 
Currently, our children are denied good, balanced nutrition in many 
schools through lack of investment in school catering, ridiculous 
budgets, lack of nutritional awareness, and policy that fails to 
understand sustainability.

Up until the 1980s, school meals were almost universally prepared on 
site, but the intervening decades have seen huge pressure on school 
budgets; this, in some cases, has resulted in kitchens being stripped 
out and replaced by classrooms.

Mr Gooding believes removing meat from some menus altogether is a 
cost-cutting exercise by some authorities, under the guise of 
environmental concerns.

A kitchen that doesnt use any meat has fewer compliance requirements, 
such as assigned chopping boards for meat, separation of products in 
storage and preparation, and reduced staff training.

If I wanted to look for ways to reduce costs in a kitchen an easy 
option would be to go vegetarian, he says.

But if the point of public sector catering is to provide good, 
wholesome nutrition then that point is being lost, he adds.

There is lots of science about the value of micronutrients not only 
in our children's diets, but for all of us so it should be applied to 
all public sector catering, including where good nutrition is 
critical, such as patients in recovery in hospital.


Jonathan Foot, AHDBs head of environment, says carbon alone should 
not be used as a simple indicator for some foods being better for the 

The UK is one of the most sustainable places in the world to produce 
red meat and dairy, he insists, adding:

Alternatives can often have wide-ranging negative effects on the 
environment, such as deforestation, threatening biodiversity, high 
water demands, or international shipping.

AHDB supports the Food a Fact of Life and Countryside Classroom 
education schemes, which help children to understand where food comes 
from and how it is produced.

Local producers

In some regions, concerns are being raised by a failure by councils 
to source locally.

For example, last autumn, the Farmers Union of Wales challenged 
Anglesey County Council about procurement policies for school meals 
at primary schools on the island.

Union officials say the menu offered to children does not incorporate 
enough local and Welsh produce.

But some councils are bucking the trend. In Lancashire, the county 
council has gone as far as developing a bespoke cheese with a low 
salt content with a local supplier, and it has also worked with a 
local high-end yoghurt supplier on a range of low-sugar products.

Children at schools in Aberdeenshire are offered fresh meat that is 
Red Tractor or Quality Meat Scotland assured, free-range eggs and 
locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible.

Love British Food an umbrella body for hundreds of organisations that 
have an interest in food and the countryside believes a long-term 
view must now be taken of school catering, as an investment for the future.

This, it recommends, should be done through good, nutritional food 
and an education on how to eat. Public sector catering should also be 
used as an opportunity to enrich the local area, it adds.

Local purchasing

While some councils are seizing the environmental argument to remove 
meat and dairy from menus, organisations representing farmers say the 
case for local food purchasing is a stronger one if sustainability is 
the issue under scrutiny.

Rhys Llywelyn, market development manager at Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), 
says the Welsh levy payer body regularly engages with authorities 
responsible for public procurement, making the case on local 
purchasing for settings such as schools and healthcare.

Its a challenging sector, he says, with an ongoing squeeze on public 
finances making cost undoubtedly the main driver of decisions.

Mr Llywelyn says anti-meat groups are active in the education sector, 
trying to influence purchasing decisions and also how the curriculum 
is delivered.

Over the past year, HCC has prioritised producing a range of 
brand-new classroom resources so that pupils get balanced messages on 
food, farming, health and the environment.

Welsh red meat has a positive story to tell in terms of 
sustainability, being often far lower in terms of emissions than 
imported alternatives; its important for the future that we find ways 
of taking these considerations into account in public procurement.

Food buying standards

MPs have also been critical of the government food buying standards. 
In April 2021, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said 
the government was missing the opportunity to support small 
businesses, improve animal welfare and promote sustainability within 
public sector rules for buying food.

In its report Public Sector Procurement of Food, the committee called 
on the government to address outdated standards on nutrition and 
animal welfare, and close loopholes in the existing rules.

Noting the startling lack of monitoring of existing food procurement 
standards, including by government departments and NHS hospitals, the 
report demanded action to push bodies to ensure compliance.

Political drivers for change

Public sector procurement and its failure to be more focused on 
British produce has been debated for years and very little has changed.

But following Brexit and the COP26 Climate Change Conference in 2021, 
there has been a redoubling of efforts by champions of local sourcing.

Campaign group Sustain is calling for changes to the governments 
buying standards for food and catering services, and It says more 
money should be spent on high-quality domestic produce.

Henry Dimbleby's National Food Strategy also recommends that these 
standards be redesigned to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on 
food that is both healthy and sustainable.

New government policies on food are expected to be published in the 
coming weeks. considerations into account in public procurement.

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And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, 
he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and 
gave to them. 
<http://biblehub.com/luke/24-31.htm>31 And their 
eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he 
vanished out of their 
sight.  http://biblehub.com/kjv/luke/24.htm 
'Capitalism is institutionalised bribery' TG
"And I think, in the end, that is the best 
definition of journalism I have heard; to 
challenge authority - all authority - especially 
so when governments and politicians take us to 
war, when they have decided that they will kill and others will die. "
--Robert Fisk
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